‘It seems we are massively entering a quarantine of consumption where we will learn how to be happy just with a simple dress, rediscovering old favourites we own, reading a forgotten book and cooking up a storm to make life beautiful. The impact of the virus will be cultural and crucial to building an alternative and profoundly different world.’ – Li Edelkoort, trend forecaster and fashion advisor
As large parts of the world reel under the impact of a lockdown that has prompted several people to recall the great lockdowns during the early twentieth century Spanisht flu and even the 14th centry plague, my thoughts in fact strayed in another direction. With international and national air traffic down to the barest minimum, with arenas of conspicuous consumption shut down, zillions of cars of the roads and construction activity to a halt, I was suddenly struck by a not-so-crazy thought: with all the suffering that a lockdown necessarily entails for the poorer sections of the population in particular, there might still be a silver lining here. Perhaps the temperature of the earth will have come down a few notches by the time we are done with this crisis and what is more, it might initiate a different mode of being in the world. It might give the world an opportunity to see what is continuously being denied by climate-deniers (as Naomi Klein recorded, backed by huge funds from right-wing US based foundations and corporations). It might – it just might – reconnect us with what we have long left behind and have been longing for – a different pace of life where slow is beautiful, as it were.
Continue reading Corona Biopolitics and Life After Capitalism – A Manifesto of Hope I
Praful Bidwai is no more. He died in Amsterdam on Tuesday evening due to a cardiac arrest, With his death we have lost the ‘best left-wing journalist’ in this part of South Asia whose articles appeared in many newspapers and magazines in the subcontinent and in the middle east and was frequently published by The Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique as well. Praful will be missed by thousands and thousands of his readers (this pen pusher included) who were ‘groomed’ by him in a career spanning more than four decades. For them he was one such voice who remained uncompromising in his strident criticism of communal fundamentalisms of various kinds and the crony capitalism which is having a field day these days. He was a leading voice for nuclear disarmament and peace as well and had written extensively on it. It was a strange coincidence that we met last in the capital when a memorial meeting was organised by Communist Party of India to remember the legendary Comrade Govind Pansare who was assassinated few days back. He was to speak in the meeting. The meeting was yet to start and I could steal some time to talk to him. He told he is working on a book – which was near completion – on the left movement in the country and had interviewed many activists associated with the movement to listen to their understanding of challenges before the left. And in that connection he had long meeting with Com Pansare – once in Kolhapur and one possibly in Mumbai. He shared his fascination about the energies he still had at that age for ‘the cause’. Few days after the meeting, there was a call from him asking for a phone number of a dalit activist which incidentally I did not have. Yes, that was the last time I spoke to him.
Continue reading Praful Bidwai Is No More
Guest Post by SATYA SAGAR
Several years ago a friend of mine filed a petition in the Indian Supreme Court against – believe it or not- the tenth incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu! Or at least, against a fellow who claimed to be ‘Kalki Bhagwan’ and has in the past two decades drummed up a significant following in the southern part of India.
Blasphemous as the claim of this fake avatar was the court battle itself was not really about the finer details of Hindu mythology or theological doctrine.Based on several years of painstaking investigation and research it was my friend’s claim that ‘Kalki Bhagwan’, had taken money from the public for ‘rural development activities’ and fraudulently diverted it to his personal bank accounts as well as that of his close relatives.
From being an ordinary clerk working for the Life Insurance Corporation in Chennai thirty years ago today the ‘Tenth Incarnation of Vishnu’ is allegedly worth many million dollars and owns vast properties in many parts of South India. It is a trajectory that is tragically very common everywhere, with spurious spirituality – ironically also a form of ‘insurance’-being the fastest way to material wealth and power since ancient times. Continue reading Real Estate of Religion:Satya Sagar
Guest Post by TUSHAR DHARA
In May this year the investment banking powerhouse Goldman Sachs released a report that predicted Brazil would win the FIFA world cup. The prediction relied on statistical modelling and used tools like “Regression Analysis”, “Poisson Distribution”, “Stochastic model” and “Monte Carlo Simulation”. In other words, the methodology is incomprehensible to anyone except those with an advanced degree in Statistics or Econometrics. In hindsight, the prediction looks silly, given the 7-1 score line in the semi-final match between Germany and Brazil. However, the report is a perfect example of the failures of modern economics, particularly the financial voodoo economics pushed by the likes of Goldman Sachs.
When “The World Cup and Economics 2014” was released on May 27 it gained a lot of press publicity globally. The report predicted that Spain would reach the semi-final stage and lose to Argentina, which would lose to Brazil in the final. Goldman’s research division analyzed reams of data, including about 14,000 matches since 1960, national teams’ Elo rankings, average goals scored per team, home country and home continent advantage. To be sure, the report states that the predictions are just “probabilities” of teams advancing. Still the report states, “The most striking aspect of our model is how heavily it favours Brazil to win the World Cup”, and, “the extent of the Brazilian advantage in our model is nevertheless striking.” Continue reading How Goldman Sachs Got it Wrong on Football, The World Cup and Economics: Tushar Dhara
Talk delivered by RAVI SINHA at the International Seminar on “Democracy, Socialism, and the Visions for the 21st Century”, 7th to 10th March, 2014 Hyderabad, India
If one has to say something brief and short about a large and complex subject, which is also a much discussed topic, one always runs the risk of stating the obvious. But one may also chance upon the unexpected and the counter-intuitive. Problems of democracy under capitalism and under socialism have by now a ring of tiring familiarity around them, but they also contain surprises that are hidden in plain sight. While fixing my coordinates by recounting the obvious, my hope is to point towards aspects that may be counter-intuitive to the political common sense prevalent in much of the left and the social movements.
Let me begin with the status of democracy under capitalism. Popular mind considers them complementary to each other. Ancients – whether in Greece or in India – were familiar with the concept of democracy and, at least in some famous examples, they are also supposed to have practiced it. But the large-scale acceptance and practice of democracy overlaps with the history of capitalism. In addition, the history of socialism of the twentieth century has been such that this association got further entrenched in the popular mind. I will come to the socialism question a little later. For now, let me stay with the relationship between democracy and capitalism.
If I were to say, then, that at the core of this relationship lies a tension that is fundamentally irresolvable, it would appear counter-intuitive to the popular common sense. On the other hand, it would appear obvious to a leftist. On both counts there are reasons to dig a little deeper. Truth is often counter-intuitive for the wrong reasons, but at times it is also obvious for the wrong reasons.
Guest Post by Shankar Gopalakrishnan
On August 14th, Narendra Modi declared that his Independence Day speech would attract as much attention as that of the Prime Minister. He appears to have been right. The fact that this is hardly unexpected should not obscure the deeper puzzle that it hides. It is a rare occurrence for a state level leader to suddenly get so much prominence in the media, and that too for such a long period. Why, then, have powerful forces in our society – including most of the media – chosen to endorse Modi? Why the sudden promotion of this particular leader at this particular time? What is it that he and his regime are offering?
Continue reading Why Do ‘They’ Love Narendra Modi ?: Shankar Gopalakrishnan
Guest Post by M AKHIL: Listen to the flourish. The stage is set, the side-kicks are in place and the sycophants are scampering tirelessly to welcome their emperor. Narendra Modi has started his journey to the high seat of Indraprastha.
Curiously enough, his current ride is being celebrated as a victory lap by his ardent supporters. A bit too quick, don’t you think? Especially for a man who was only a few years ago, in terrible danger of being convicted for one of the most gruesome state-sponsored genocides in the history of independent India. Of course, he hasn’t been convicted yet, but many of his ministers and close aides have been. Babu Bajrangi’s confessions on record must be more than enough proof for Modi’s culpability. 1 Alas! Facts get twisted in the most unimaginable ways as they threaten to blow away an edifice carefully built by a dominant plutocracy with immense help from the ‘State-Temple-Corporate Complex’. 2 Here, I shall attempt to bust the Modi bubble which is being ridiculously pumped up by the holy nexus, even as you are reading this. After all, the BJP is possibly the party with the highest following among Indian netizens and the online publicity team of the current supremo is meticulous. An alternative view will be stark, but hopefully it will serve as food for thought for those among us getting nauseated by the dominant narrative. Continue reading Lies, Damn Lies and NaMo – Why I do not support Modi and why you shouldn’t either: M Akhil